Meet Nancy McBrady, the new executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. McBrady replaced David Bell, who had been in the job for 18 years, and she has the distinction of being the first woman to hold the job since the commission was founded in 1971. We called her up to talk about her transition from high-powered Preti Flaherty attorney to the champion of the Maine wild blueberry.

She’ll advocate for the commission before state and federal lawmakers, help bring grant money to the industry, and work closely with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension on research and development issues. And, yes, we did ask how she consumes her wild blueberries.

STEALTH STAFFER: Her new position was announced this month, but McBrady, a native of Lewiston and a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, said she started last fall by attending a joint meeting between the U.S. and Canadian wild blueberry boards before she was officially named to the post.

Then she dove right into an intense application process for a grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Why so under the radar? She and the commission were too busy for press releases. (They got the $50,000 grant, earmarked for marketing efforts.)

“It just wasn’t a priority,” McBrady said. “But now that the smoke has cleared …”

LEAVING THE LAW: At Preti Flaherty, McBrady practiced environmental, land use and municipal law for seven years. “I will not and do not miss the billable hour,” McBrady said, laughing. She took a week off after leaving the firm, spending most of it reading (she can definitely recommend Andy Weir’s “The Martian”).

But she’s grateful for her legal background. “I have a lot to learn with respect to the USDA, but I have an understanding of how the Clean Water and Clean Air acts work, as well as the state statutes,” she said. All of which she’s looking forward to translating into an agricultural perspective.

Maine wild blueberries, one of the state’s most important crops – 86 million pounds are produced annually – are technically wild, but growers have increased yields through cultivation, including bringing in massive numbers of bees to pollinate the blueberries. Direct sales of the tiny, fragile berries amount to $173 million annually, according to the commission.

A WOMAN IN CHARGE: Is it meaningful to be the first woman to hold this position? McBrady doesn’t put her gender front and center, but she said she’d be happy if she brings a new perspective or “zeal” to the job. “The blueberry business in Maine is predominantly male, but it is also a family business,” she said. “There are so many multi-generational families, and everyone has been incredibly welcoming to me.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM BERRIES?: Naturally, McBrady is a fan, although she’s been a traditionalist in terms of how she likes them. “Honestly, I think raw and fresh in the summertime come August,” she said. “But probably blueberry cheesecake would be a close second.” Since landing her new job, she’s been exploring the frozen wild blueberry. “I am probably not dissimilar to a lot of Mainers who don’t know what a special and intensive business it is,” she said. “I was so surprised to learn that 99 percent of the crop is frozen.”

At home in Cumberland, she’s been learning how adaptable the frozen berries are, especially where blenders are involved. “I am definitely a smoothie maven at the moment.” She’s also “keen” to have some blueberry cocktails but that won’t happen for a little while.

BLUEBERRIES, BUT NOT FOR SAL: McBrady is expecting her first child this spring, a daughter, but she will not be naming her Sal. Shall we lay bets on how many copies of Robert McCloskey’s classic she gets at her baby shower? McBrady did see something at Sherman’s on Exchange that will likely end up on that baby’s bedroom wall. “They have a ‘Blueberries for Sal’ poster that I am buying,” she said. As for being pregnant when she accepted the job? The commission “didn’t bat an eyelash,” she said. “I just knew that meant all good things.”

CHALLENGES AHEAD: The Maine wild blueberry business has quadrupled its yield since 1980. McBrady’s job is to keep that forward momentum going despite challenges such as threats from invasive species and problems plaguing the colonies of pollinators brought in to the state every spring. Declining funding for research and development is also a concern.

“The University of Maine and the Cooperative Extension are the backbone” of what the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine does, providing an “invaluable service” in terms of scientific research, she said. “This is a really special private-public relationship we have.” So, her advocacy may take her to Washington, D.C., but it will always keep her rooting for the team at home.